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Serve by Giving of Yourself

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  • Philanthropy

Mark Brandsma

Partner, Relationship Manager, Financial & Estate Planner VIEW BIO

Living in Ethiopia for eight months is an experience I cherish.

From August 2014 to April 2015, my wife and I along with our three kids, lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To be clear, moving to an urban slum in Africa had not been a lifelong dream of mine! For several years, Tammy and I had been interested in taking our family overseas for a cross cultural experience where we would have an opportunity to serve. I always pictured doing this in a tropical climate with a beach nearby.

First, I was asked to go and see the work in Korah, the slum district of Addis Ababa. With reservation, I agreed to go to see if there was the possibility of taking my family to work there. After surrendering my life to God at a new level and through various ‘coincidences’ prior to and during that trip, it became clear that if I was to be obedient, the Brandsma family needed to move to Ethiopia. Jesus made it quite clear that it is not acceptable to have partial obedience or settle for what is comfortable. [Matthew 19:16-24]

Our stay in Korah was an amazing journey of growth for our entire family. To regularly be in contact with people who survive on $2-3/day and who live with their families in one room mud ‘houses’ has a way of impacting one’s perspective. It has been reinforced in me that every life is significant, and that because of His great care for the poor, God commands us to tangibly demonstrate this care as well through giving of our abilities, time, and financial resources. It was amazing how we were able to use our personalities, experiences and gifts to benefit the community. For me, I was able to take leadership with local staff in enhancing the existing program. With my financial background, I was involved in establishing budgets and coordinating the communication of them to various stakeholders.

As a nurse, my wife was able to apply her skills and experience to care for the sick [many of whom have HIV). as well as establish a medical clinic in Korah. She also served as the primary educator of our children who were home schooled during this time. Our three children spent their mornings in homeschool. Their afternoons were often spent with Tammy and I, sitting in on meetings, visiting homes of our beneficiaries, or playing with the local children. They were very comfortable walking through the streets of the slum, and were beloved by the people of the community.

My church did a short video featuring our family. If you are interested, please visit and click on Home Abroad. Living in Ethiopia for eight months is an experience I cherish and am very thankful for. I encourage anyone to take ‘risks’ in this way!